Campfires have been around for ages. They used to be necessary to survival for humans, as they provide light, warmth, protection from many bugs and wild animals, and are even a place to cook food. Even though they are no longer vital to life, they are great for emergency situations, and they are also a tradition even in modern day camping. Something about fire seems to attract many people, and the benefits it provides are a great bonus.
Roasting marshmallows and making s’mores, warming your hands on a cool spring night, telling spooky stories are just a few among the tons of possibilities of a campfire. Of course, before you can enjoy it, you must build it, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your fire roaring for hours.
Safety First – Don’t Let Your Campfire Get Out Of Control
With fire comes danger, so it’s a good idea to be prepared and put safe practices into use when building your campfire. Use a designated fire ring if your camp spot has one. If you are staying in a more backcountry area with no camp sites provided, you will have to create your own. Select a place away from trees and shrubs. Make sure there’s no plants on the ground, such as grass (even dead grass- it catches fire easily.) Clear away bark, dead tree branches, and just leave the ground bare.
Gather some small to medium sized stones and put them in a ring shape, about as large as you’d like the base of the fire to be. That will be your fire ring. Adding a pile of dirt to the middle, form a platform that is around 3 to 4 inches thick.
First you should start off with tinder. Tinder is the small, dry scraps that burn well that are the foundation of your fire. As the outdoors can be wet from rain, snow, or streams, sometimes it is difficult to find dry sticks and damp ones will not burn at all. There is many different things that can be used in situations like that. Some suggestions are dryer lint, cedar shavings, cotton ball and Vaseline, cattails, birch bark shaving, steel wool, paper, you name it.
Once your tinder is burning, it will burn quickly, and you will need something larger to keep it burning. Using too large pieces of wood, however will smother your small fire. The medium sized pieces of wood you need next are called kindling, and like tinder, it will not burn if it is wet. In a pinch, if everything you have is too damp, you can scrape away the outer layers with a knife.
When your kindling is going, you should have a nice steady fire by this point. But to keep it going, you must add even larger pieces of wood, otherwise you will be out gathering tons of small sticks. Look for pieces of wood that are dry and about as big as your wrist. Those will keep your fire going for quite awhile.
Putting out the campfire
As a general rule, you want to give yourself 20 to 30 minutes to put out the fire. Putting a fire out safely and thoroughly takes much longer than you’d think. Don’t just pour the bucket of water onto the fire- it will flood the pit and someone who comes along later may not be able to use it. Sprinkling the water, just as much as you need to put out the embers is the best course of action. Stir the ashes around with a stick, until they have all been dampened. Listen for noises such as pops and hissing. When you don’t hear them, it is closed to being fully put out.
Never put your hands in the ashes, it could still be burning or warm in an area you missed or underneath and it would scald you. Instead, it is suggested to put the back or palm of your hand near the ashes. Once it feels cool, the fire is out. Don’t forget that if you made your own fire pit, to recover the grounds with dirt, scatter the rocks, replace sod, etc.
Some things to remember
You should have a bucket full of water next to your fire as soon as you light it for safety reasons. When you are finished with your fire, you can use the bucket of water to put out the fire. When gathering wood, try to find wood that snaps easily. The easier it is to snap it, the drier it is, making it much easier for the fire to burn. If it bends, it’s too wet or green. You can tell your wood is too green or damp is there is a lot of smoke and it has trouble burning on certain parts of the branches. Collect double, or even triple, what you think you will need during the day. It’s hard, if not impossible to find the right type of wood in the dark. You will also use more than you think. If you have extra, you can use it to keep the fire going longer, leave it for the next person, or just return it to the grounds. Using a campfire can be very fun and entertaining. Hopefully these tips will help you build your own successful campfire.